It is often under pressure that a group’s full strength is realized.
From Sept. 1-3, the Performing Arts Department put enough of their inventory up for sale that Jean-Louise England, the Costume Studio Manager, commented, “Because of this, we might not have a costume sale for many, many years.”
Behind what looked like a Renaissance festival was actually a following of new safety regulations signed in at the end of the Spring 2016 semester. The previous condition of the costume storage posed an issue had the outfits caught fire or wet fabrics damaged the newly remodeled Browning Center.
Knowing this, the eight-person studio team began a four-week-long organization of their storage in the summer, losing an estimated 20-30 percent of their inventory and arranging the rest by size, color and period. The stored outfits were needed for upcoming performances and rentals to surrounding theaters, but anything deemed unnecessary was sold, and the funds were transferred into a maintenance and safety budget.
“We now have a very manageable storage,” England said. “We have room to grow, we can find what’s in there and it’s not as packed as it used to be…” She added, “It was a situation that needed to be taken care of, (and it) came a little faster than originally planned.”
In essence, the possible safety threat convinced the studio team to fix a lesser issue: the inability to effectively navigate their inventory. Not only are the racks in the third-floor storage now filed on one side instead of two, the project also freed up space in the basement, providing room for accessories and opening up a locking cabinet – useful for keeping wigs stylized and ready for performances.
“If we didn’t have to (follow the new code), we probably wouldn’t have undertaken this massive of a project with as little preparation (as) we had” studio team member Amber Yardley said.
As the team dug through the storage space, they happened upon some surprises. England’s assistant manager, who graduated from WSU in the 90s, recognized outfits from when she was a student, and a customer at the sale recognized one of his designs from 1981. England said there were pieces that “easily go back forty-plus years,” and despite the nine to 10 years she’s been employed by the university, she said there were costumes she didn’t recognize.
Yardley, who left the university 10 years ago and returned in the spring for her Costume Design and Studio Management degree, found one of her class projects – a patterning exercise from 2004 – which she took home.
“I think that was sort of a testament to why we needed to do this…” Yardley said. “We have stuff we don’t even know why we have it.”